What the?! "Adventure before Dementia"
I was walking down the main street of my new home town and saw this, a decorative tea towel with the phrase "Adventure before Dementia" written on it. My jaw dropped!
I have recently become interested in reading books written by people with dementia about their experiences (such as Kate Swaffer's 'What the hell happened to my brain?', Christine Bryden's 'Nothing about us, without us' and Gerda Saunders' 'Memory's last breath') [UPDATE: I have compiled a list of books written by people with dementia]. One of the things they ALL talk about is how negative public perceptions of dementia impact their everyday experiences. They describe how depictions of dementia as 'a living death' or as 'the beginning of the end' reduce public perceptions of dementia to an overwhelmingly negative experience of pain and suffering. Such depictions fail to recognise the breadth and depth of the experience of people with dementia. It's not all doom and gloom. Laughter, joy, connection and purpose can be retained.
I'm sure that the person who designed this tea towel and the people who decided to put it in their shop window mean no harm. But for people with dementia, such depictions act to challenge the value of their lives. They perpetuate the assumption that adventure stops with dementia; that life stops with dementia.
The increased visibility of people with dementia living rich and meaningful lives beyond a diagnosis of dementia acts to breakdown those stereotypes and stigmas (I recommend highly those books I mentioned earlier). Let's listen to the voices of people with dementia telling us that representations such as these are damaging and demeaning. Let's listen when they tell us that they can live, and are currently living, beyond their diagnosis. The adventure of life doesn't have to stop with dementia. Let the adventure continue!